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Citizen Weekly

Thursday, 20 November 2014

OBAMA TO COME TO KENYA: MAMA SARAH



Sarah Obama, step-grandmother of the US President, told Weekly Citizen that she intends to personally invite Mr Barack Obama to visit Kenya.
She expects to meet the President soon at the White House in Washington DC.
“I will ask him to come,” Mama Sarah said through an interpreter in an interview at United Nations headquarters. “He has to come.”
President Obama has pledged to travel to his father’s homeland at some point prior to the end of his second term in January 2017.
The 94-year-old matriarch of the Obama family was interviewed during a break in a Women’ Entrepreneurship Day event at the UN.
Mama Sarah spoke on a panel and was honoured with an award for her efforts to promote education in Kogelo.
She briefed an audience of about 400 women and a few men on her Mama Sarah Obama Foundation that focuses on helping orphans to attend school and remain healthy.
Noting that she herself had never attended school, Mama Sarah said she made sure that all her children received an education, “including Barack Obama Snr.”
She pedalled a bicycle six miles to bring the father of the future US President to the nearest school, Mama Sarah recounted.
She said she “knew the value of education because somebody would bring me a letter and I couldn’t read it”.
The biggest challenge facing poor communities in Kenya “is getting the fees for girl children to go to school,” Mama Sarah said in the panel discussion on The Importance of Education for Entrepreneurs of the Future.
She noted that many of the children aided by her foundation have been orphaned as a result of Aids.
Early pregnancy can act as another barrier to girls’ attendance at school, Mama Sarah said. The foundation encourages young mothers to go back to school because, Mama Sarah noted, “without school, the cycle of poverty continues”.
Ensuring that girls attend school has a ripple effect on society, she added, noting: “A woman can educate an entire village.”
'ON BORROWED TIME'
In an interview, Mama Sarah emphasised the importance of carrying on the work she has begun.
“At my age, I’m living on borrowed time,” she said. “I want other Kenyans to continue this work after I am gone.”
Mama Sarah plans to travel on Thursday from New York to Washington, where she expects to meet with her grandson, the President.
She will also visit schools in the US before returning to Kenya on November 25.
Mama Sarah will be meeting with potential donors to seek funding for an Early Childhood Development Centre that her foundation plans to build in Kogelo.
In all, the foundation aims to raise Sh1 billion ($12 million) to achieve a vision that includes rehabilitation of the primary and secondary schools that Mr Obama visited as a US senator in 2006 and that were named in his honour.
The Mama Sarah Obama Foundation has already helped educate Kenyans who have gone on to become “doctors, university professors and senators,” she noted in her remarks at the women’s entrepreneurship event.
Mama Sarah is accompanied in the US by Debra Okello, the director of the US branch of the foundation. Ms Okello is also serving as Mama Sarah’s interpreter.